Just a little over two years ago the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that government may not ban political spending by corporations; the Court determined that doing so is a violation of the corporation’s right to free speech.
On its face the ruling that essentially granted personhood to businesses and labor unions started a new era for their influence on the balance of power in politics, and inevitably, public policy. We are seeing that shift in power in ways no one could have predicted. America is in the process of institutionalizing social injustice.
Consider the bitter fight over whether the federal government can force religious based organizations to cover contraception as part of its employees’ health insurance benefits. In particular the Roman Catholic Church has condemned the mandate as forcing it to violate its own doctrine opposing birth control. Certainly individuals can choose not to use contraception in deference to their religious beliefs. But does the Church, and its related institutions, have greater rights than the individuals that it employs?
Corporate dollars are flowing into coffers for candidates who want to shrink government. And by shrink, they mean they want to slash spending on social programs. Federal and state support for affordable housing, food stamps, health insurance for poor children and assistance with paying the gas bill is certainly shrinking. In the meantime large corporations are enjoying record profits, but also enjoying record low tax bills. According to Warren Buffet effective corporate tax rates last year averaged only 12%. It could just be a coincidence that corporations can make virtually unlimited donations to politicians but they are not asked to pay taxes to support social programs.
When access to contraception is denied it restricts the rights of people to choose when or if they will have children. When affordable housing resources are cut, families end up homeless and when food stamps are cut children literally don’t get enough to eat. In short, corporate rights are overtaking the rights of real people.
Money has always given its owners a louder voice. Money talks, as they say. But in America we have been promised a government of the people, for the people, by the people. It seems that corporations are now those people.